Cosmopolitan gay travelers visiting the Northeast have two choices when it comes to cities: Boston or New York. Those seeking a something less intimidating will hit up Providence, RI. However if you're a queer American looking to exercise his or her marriage rights, Boston may not be the most convenient or desirable destination: consider getting hitched in New Haven, CT.
A weekend in New Haven promises great restaurants and shopping, as well as excellent museums and a tradition of theater. Although Yale's presence can overshadow the merits of Connecticut's third-largest city, the university sets the tone by contributing to the intelligent and gay-friendly population. Besides, it doesn't hurt having a world-renowned Ivy League institution in the center of things, if only for the wonderful neo-gothic and New England collegiate architecture (and hot college students, known here as "Yalies").
Part of New Haven's charm is the ease of accessibility: most destinations can be reached on foot, the exception being the small Italian neighborhood on Wooster Street, an easy ten-minute taxi drive. The historic Chapel Street District is where much of the action is; running through the center of town past the picturesque New Haven Green. Most recently in November 2008, this city celebrated its first ever restaurant week (surprising when one considers how many great places there are to eat here). Many serve organic and locally grown fare.
The must-visit caf? for all is Claire's Corner Copia (1000 Chapel St.), a 33 year-old organic kosher vegetarian fixture of downtown New Haven. The food is heavenly (try their mango lassi or famous Lithuanian coffee cake), and the ever-present, motherly Claire Criscuolo sets a benevolent and welcoming tone. Over the years she has used the caf? to raise money for many charities, including HIV/AIDS causes — years before anyone would even talk about the virus (as a reminder for World AIDS Day this past December 1st, Claire removed all the local artwork from her walls). Famous regular visitors to this gem have included Jodie Foster, Clair Danes, and J. Roy Helland (Meryl Streep's hair designer).
Other great food spots to check out include Zinc ( 964 Chapel St.), an American bistro featuring food grown on local farms (try some red kuri squash or broccoli rabe ), and Galician-owned Ibiza (39 High St.), which serves authentic Spanish cuisine. Pacifico (220 College St.) specializes in Latin food and has the best mohitos in town, while classy Union League Caf? (1032 Chapel St.) is the area's traditional French restaurant Previously Yale's old boys club, Union League Caf?'s beautiful interior is the perfect setting to celebrate your nuptials; they've already done quite a few LGBT weddings since gay weddings officially began on November 13.
For more down-to-earth eats, get a slice of white pizza topped with clams at famous Frank Pepe Pizzaria Napoletana (157 Wooster St.) and America's (purportedly) original hamburger at Louis' Lunch (263 Crown St). For food gifts and little noshes, Villarina's (1092 Chapel St.; 203-772-0872) has fantastic Italian prepared foods and desserts concocted by local grandmothers, while the Caseus Fromagerie (93 Whitney Ave.) is a great wine bar and perfect pick-me-up if you're in the mood for a board of fine European cheese and charcuterie.
All the clothing boutiques are gay-friendly, selling great quality threads that trump Boston and New York's insane prices. Raggs Fashion for Men (1020 Chapel St St.; 203-865-3824) has well-tailored preppy New England items — match your outfit with shoes from Paul Richard's (268 York St.; 203-772-0281). Bottega Giuliana (908/910 Chapel St) carries shoes and clothing as is comparable to shopping at the Co-op at Barneys; for lady's apparel and artisanal jewelry, check out Idiom (1014 Chapel St.) in the historic Chapel Street District.